Fake News Everywhere: Harms and Implications

Time and now, we see many different notifications popping up on our mobile screens telling us about Lockdown Extension that even the government hasn’t decided about. Either they serve as government consultants, which is definitely not the case. Thus the other conclusion that can be made is that the news is fake or manipulated to serve a particular agenda.

But how many people do you think actually go out to verify these facts before spreading the information? The most common example can be our parents who are quite foreign to modern technology and tend to believe what is shown on their mobile phones. Once it has been received by them, you can expect it to be circulated on various family and friends groups immediately without further speculation or verification. Eventually, it misleads many people into believing a rumor and spreading it to even more people. 

To understand why it is such a big problem, let us assume that the rumor spreads that certain parts of India would be lifting the lockdown in the coming week. This information can create panic amongst people as people might start flocking out of their homes and eventually catch the virus, creating an even dreadful situation than it was before. A similar incident took place with Mumbai laborers when a rumor was spread about the upliftment of lockdown and people came out in large numbers so as to travel back to their homes. However, due to the violation of rules and regulations, many people were beaten and punished, not to mention the number of COVID cases increased rapidly.

One of the major contributors to the realm of misleading information is Technology. However, philosophy and good social behavior of our own can help eliminate it. The problem of fake news cannot be just left out for technology to solve as it isn’t a problem that can be coded away and solved. The problem will still persist because we, humans have the attitude to pass on information based on the credibility of our personal relations without verifying the facts. For example, when you go out with your group of buddies for a couple of drinks and one of them makes some controversial comments about a politician or so. You might just consider the remark as true because the source is someone you trust and don’t usually question. When you receive such information from a credible source, you just believe it.

The same thing happens when you got to Instagram, Facebook, or Whatsapp. The only difference is that now you need to imagine the same scenario with more than 1000 friends and many more such rumors. Often the information is too enticing and lucrative that we don’t really testify it. It just seems like a hassle. Moreover, when we come across such interesting gossip, what do we do? We share it with our 1000 friends by putting up stories or forwarding the messages on various WhatsApp groups.

All of this is based on testimonies. Making a factual claim in person, even if you just pass on the news you've picked up somewhere else, means taking responsibility for it and putting your credibility as a source — in jeopardy. Part of the reason people believe you when you share information is that they believe in you: if you are lying or you are wrong, they have determined your credibility and can hold you accountable.

What makes it different on social media is primarily the large quanta of posts and gossips that we come across while scrolling through it. Therefore it makes it difficult to remember which post was shared by whom, and only a faint and dizzy memory of it sustains as this information is just too much for the human brain to hold. Who are you gonna blame now if the information turns out to be false? Well, no one and such fake news keep on existing. 

In addition, many times people don’t mean the exact same thing that they are writing nor do they get the stated facts checked while retweeting. One of the common answers you might receive after interrogating would simply be the lack of time to engage in such activity. A common implication for the same is the conveyance of misleading thoughts that might make it a controversial aspect. History is evident in how such controversial stories and posts harm the lives of other individuals that even lead to loss of life. 

#BoysLockerRoom, you might have come across this on Instagram stories. Around the same time, a screenshot of a chat that showcased how a boy was threatening a girl to rape went viral. Lots of opposing views were posted and stories trended. Turned out it was some sort of prank played a girl on her friend to see his reaction in a particular situation or so. It was a huge step that could have ruined the boy’s life if the truth didn’t come out at the right time and defame him for life.

On the other hand with such action, the boys’ locker room matter got related to the screenshot one and the intensity of the case turned out to be a lighting stock. Similarly, many people lose their lives upon blames on Social media that haven’t been gone for a trial, but the repercussion that they face for being just accused to be guilty, whether testified by High Court or not, makes the person life miserable. 

Hence, testifying the news whether it is true or not, trying to understand both sides of a story without passing judgments, and blaming someone are important philosophical aspects that need to be realized by all people and put into action. By doing so we will be able to create a better world for everyone to live in.

Read this interesting article on Social Media Impact on Research & Discoveries.

Also do read this article that highlights the Role of Social Media During Pandemic.

Do read this article that talks about steps taken by some big Social Media Giants to tackle Fake News.

Written By - Bhanu Jain

Edited By - Kashish Chadha


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